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Gretchen Whitmer to moms: Paid leave, day care would help the Michigan economy

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her office
(Bridge photo by Rod Stanford)
  • Policies important to moms are serious economic issues, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told a New York conference
  • Whitmer reiterated support for paid family leave, greater access to child care and full reproductive rights
  • Plans like 15 weeks of paid family leave haven’t gained traction in Michigan and are opposed by business groups

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reiterated support for access to affordable child care and paid family leave Tuesday, telling a national conference of mom-friendly policy advocates that there’s an economic cost to letting mothers shoulder the burden alone. 

Speaking at the inaugural Moms First Summit in New York City — an event that also featured former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other influential women in politics, science, business and media — Whitmer said that policymakers shouldn’t sideline issues predominantly affecting mothers.


“I would make an argument that almost any issue that moms and working families are confronting is absolutely an economic issue, and that we would do ourselves a favor by talking about it in those terms,” Whitmer said. “A woman being able to get into the workforce is determined as much by day care, by access to reproductive health, as it is to a fair wage in the workplace.” 


Recalling her own experience in the state Legislature as a new mom also caring for an aging parent, Whitmer said motherhood “didn't change my values, but it eliminated my patience for waiting for solutions for others to address the issues that I was confronting.” 

Whitmer and other Michigan Democrats have supported efforts to require employers provide up to 15 weeks paid family or medical leave to their workers, hoping to mirror recent changes in states like Minnesota. Whitmer also called for investments in free preschool, child care and caregiver credits in her latest budget proposal

Mandatory paid leave has yet to gain traction in Michigan and is opposed by business leaders and Republicans, who say it would raise taxes and make it harder for employers from crafting benefits to woo workers.

On Tuesday, Whitmer said Michigan residents and businesses “pay for it one way or another,” arguing that offering paid leave benefits can help keep more employees in the workforce who might have otherwise left. 

Whitmer on Tuesday also reiterated arguments that reproductive rights and abortion access are economic issues that could influence whether people choose to live in the state

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